viernes, marzo 24, 2006

Captain Hook

News Release
ETC Group and Coalition Against Biopiracy
March 24, 2006

Captain Hook Awards for Biopiracy 2006
Hooks get fingered and Cogs* get a hand at the UN's Biodiversity Convention in Curitiba

Corporations, governments, institutions and individuals will learn today if they will be inducted into biopiracy's hall of shame when the Coalition Against Biopiracy [1] (CAB) announces the winners of the Captain Hook Awards during the meeting of the Eighth Conference of the Parties (COP8) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Curitiba, Brazil. CAB will also reward outstanding achievements of "cogs" - those indefatigable resistors who have opposed biopiracy, defeated predatory patents or otherwise foiled the nefarious plots of notorious biopirates. The Captain Hook Awards are held at the meeting of the CBD's COP to draw international attention to the Convention's failure to provide meaningful regulations to stop biopiracy - the monopolization of genetic resources and knowledge taken from the farming communities and peoples that have developed and nurtured those resources. This fourth Captain Hook Awards ceremony is preceded by ceremonies at COP7 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2004), COP6 in The Hague (2002) and COP5 in Nairobi (2000). Formal announcement of this year's winners of the Captain Hook and Cog Awards will be made at a ceremony under the social movements' tent adjacent to the convention centre at 14:00 on Friday, March 24th 2006.

Distinguishing extreme and egregious acts of biopiracy from those only moderately malevolent is not an easy task. CAB relied on the analysis and vigilance of organizations and individuals from all over the world who submitted nominations along with supporting documentation to the Awards web site, While many nominees are frequent visitors to the biopirate's den - Gene Giants Monsanto and Syngenta, and the US government, for example - many others are newcomers. Google (for its recent foray into genomics research) and the National Geographic Society (for its DNA- collecting Human Genographic Project) are first-time nominees along with other universities, research institutions, companies and government legislators around the world who have contributed to the privatization of knowledge, cultural practices and traditional or fundamental resources.

"Terminator technology features prominently in this year's awards, which isn't surprising since seed sterilization is such a crucial issue at this year's COP," notes Lucy Sharratt of the Ban Terminator Campaign, a new member of CAB. "I've got it on good authority that we can expect governments plotting to undermine the UN's de facto moratorium on Terminator - most notably, Canada, Australia and New Zealand - to slink to the stage to accept the 'Access of Evil' Award, while the African Group of countries that have fought for years to maintain and strengthen the moratorium are the logical choice for the 'Best Advocate' Award."

Hope Shand of ETC Group, also a CAB member, adds, "Delta and Pine Land [D&PL], the US cottonseed and soybean seed company that started it all in 1998 with the original patent on Terminator, will get the chance to display more of its fancy footwork on the walk up to the winner's podium." Shand feels sure that D&PL is a shoe-in for the "Extreme Makeover" Award for its inventive "greenwashing" of Terminator. "Initially, D&PL promoted Terminator for use in the global South to prevent farmers from re-using seed. After massive protest, the company made an about-face and said sterile seeds were primarily intended for Northern farmers. Now the company says Terminator is foremost a biosafety tool to contain gene flow - it's hard to keep up!" says Shand.

Alejandro Argumedo of the Coalicion Indigena Contra la Biopirateria en los Andes, another CAB member, is confident that Gene Giant Syngenta won't be overlooked for its role in promoting Terminator technology. "Not only does Syngenta have a portfolio of traditional Terminator patents of its own," argues Argumedo, "but the company is working on a new Terminator technology that prevents potatoes from sprouting unless a proprietary chemical is introduced. That's why Sygnenta got my vote for the 'Biggest Threat to Food Sovereignty' Award."

Jim Thomas of ETC Group and eminent emcee of the Third Captain Hook Awards as well as this Fourth Awards ceremony promises a varied program. "It's true that seeds will get a lot of attention at this year's Awards. In addition to the Terminator-related awards, we expect to recognize La Via Campesina's global Seeds Campaign as the 'Best Defense of Food Sovereignty.' We'll also recognize the women of Via Campesina in Brazil for their opposition to the desertification of the land caused by Aracruz Celulose's eucalyptus monocultures. And the US government is in the running for the 'Most Shameful Act of Biopiracy' for imposing plant intellectual property laws on war-torn Iraq in mid-2004," says Thomas. But he predicts the seed protectors and seed pirates will share the spotlight with less conventional acts of biopiracy and resistance, as well. Thomas hopes to present Google, Inc. with its first ever Captain Hook Award, the 'Biggest Threat to Genetic Privacy.' "Google woos us with cute holiday cartoons and its 'Don't be Evil' motto, but the company's collaboration with J. Craig Venter - a perennial favorite at the Captain Hook Awards and a likely winner in his own right as this year's 'Greediest Biopirate' - to create a searchable online database of all the genes on the planet is raising serious concern among privacy advocates," explains Thomas.

Ditdit Pelegrina of SEARICE in the Philippines, which is also member of the Coalition Against Biopiracy, points out that most of the biopirates who will receive awards in Curitiba have done nothing illegal. "Some winners have claimed monopoly patents or taken actions that may be considered morally offensive or technically unacceptable; others may have acted out of ignorance," explains Pelegrina. "The problem is that intellectual property regimes and internationally trade agreements legally condone patents that are predatory on the indigenous knowledge or sovereign genetic resources of other people. As history shows, intellectual property regimes have no capacity to address biopiracy, and they are not benefit sharing agreements," concludes Pelegrina.

The complete list of Captain Hook and Cog Award winners, along with citations, will be posted on the CAB web site:

For further information about biopiracy and the Captain Hook Awards, please contact:

Jim Thomas, ETC Group mobile tel. in Curitiba, March 24-31: 55 (41) 88341049

Lucy Sharratt, Ban Terminator Campaign

Hope Shand or Veronica Villa, ETC Group

Ditdit Pelegrina, SEARICE

[1] The Coalition Against Biopiracy is a group of civil society and peoples' organizations that first came together at the 1995 Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Jakarta. CAB notes that the Awards are a collaborative effort and acknowledges it would be unable to identify the most deserving in the vast sea of Hooks and Cogs without the vigilance and analysis of civil society and peoples' movements around the world.

*In the Middle Ages, cogs were small ships built with high sides that made them less vulnerable to pirate attacks.


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